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by Leo Tolstoy
In the world that I grew up, books -- at least certain books -- were seen as something dangerous, something to be wary of and keep at a distance if possible.
If I wanted to become a novelist, according to Flannery O’Connor, I didn’t need to wander the world harvesting experiences. I needed to contemplate experience and then write about it.
The agent said my birth mother had left me under a nearby bridge. I was found with a note that said, "Give him to someone rich." A policeman gave me a name and took me to an orphanage, but the orphanage had recently burned down, so it, like my birth mother, was unrecoverable.
A preface is an ars poetica for a book, for a literary life. A preface often feels like the writer sitting across the table from the reader, and saying, listen, now I am going to tell you the truth.
Larsen acknowledges the great authors who came before him, how their influence on him is undeniable, unavoidable, deep –– but that he is still his own writer, one with formidable gifts and looming ambition.
I did something in 2014 that would throw a wrench into anyone's reading: I bought a bookstore.
I've found myself subconsciously pairing Sochi's absurdities with their analogues from the canon of Russian literature. And as I've come to learn, the Russian masters saw the writing on the wall well before the Olympic torch made its way to the Black Sea's coast.
Accusations of scientism and reductionism may or may not be warranted, but the fact remains: the most fundamental discovery in all of biological science remains more-or-less completely un-talked about in English seminars.
It’s with a sense of incompletion that I offer my nine recommendations here for January, books and poems that begin, or hinge, or are contained in the year’s first month.
My son has a long way to go until he’s reading The Brothers Karamazov, but hopefully not so long that he forgets about Stinking Lizaveta before he gets there. I hope I’ll be near at hand, or only a phone call away, when he discovers that the funny name we used to whisper to each other is actually a very sad character in a great novel, and that the line between life and art is arbitrary, if it exists at all.
Digital readers and paper books have little in common. But both objects have considerable merit, and this is why I think we should combine the two.
Do we ever really “forget” the author? Does she ever truly recede when we are reading gender-crossing works? Do we necessarily want her to?
To get me through a 550-page collection, the stories must be very good indeed. These are.
Fiction can be depressing, of course, but there's something intrinsically optimistic about the process by which tragedy and frailty are turned into art.
Fictional characters enjoy exaggerated attributes, but few have the sort of beauty that marks Julien Sorel, where the beauty is not only essential to his character, elevating his soul, but outside of it, dictating his destiny. If beauty can be distilled from its specific fictional forms, does it have a cogent power of its own in literature?
The idea is that the reader is interested in a rags-to-riches story, as if literary success were akin to winning the lottery, or better yet, being struck by lightning.
By way of starting a conversation about the ideal marriage of text and transportation, we've asked our contributors and readers to make reading recommendations for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Reading War and Peace, there is the sense of beginning one of the great experiences one might have in a lifetime. It is an enervating feeling, but also a melancholy one.
There is at least as much intuition as intention in the process. A good translator has to follow that process far more consciously than the writer and yet come as close as possible in the new language to the instinctive "rightness" of the original. The greater the writer, the closer you want to come. That is both the challenge and the joy of it.